Froome has 'unfinished business' at Spanish Vuelta
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Chris Froome has some ''unfinished business'' when the Spanish Vuelta starts on Saturday.
The Kenyan-born British rider enters the grand tour as the undisputed favorite after winning his third Tour de France title, followed by a bronze medal in the individual time trial at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
''The Vuelta is a race I really enjoy and where I guess you could say I have unfinished business,'' Froome said. ''It's already been a great summer for both myself and the team, but the Vuelta is another big challenge for us.''
While Froome has put his stamp on the Tour, the one title that has consistently eluded him is the three-week Vuelta.
Not that he hasn't come close. In four appearances, Froome has twice finished runner-up.
The now 31-year-old Froome made a name for himself as an up-and-coming talent when he came second to Juanjo Cobo in 2011. In 2014, he was edged out by Alberto Contador.
Froome gave it another shot last year in search of a rare Tour-Vuelta double, but was forced to withdraw after breaking a bone in his right foot after crashing during the 11th stage.
Froome's Sky team, which helped him dominate the Tour in June, will be without both Mikel Landa (hip injury) and Nicholas Roche (illness).
Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978) are the only riders to win both the Tour and the Vuelta in the same season, and they did so when the Vuelta was still held in the spring.
Here is a look at the course and Froome's toughest competition:
Besides again offering a route fashioned for climbers, the 71st edition of the Spanish Vuelta will avoid the hot southern sun with action taking place in the greener north before the last week in the Mediterranean region of Valencia.
The race begins on Saturday with a 27.8-kilometer (17.2-mile) team time trial in Ourense and concludes 3,315 kilometers (2,059 miles) later with the traditional arrival in Madrid on Sept. 11.
In between, riders face 12 hill and mountain stages.
The race will feature a trip into France on the 14th stage for a climb to the l'Aubisque peak used in the Tour.
''The tough course and stiff competition is bound to make for some aggressive racing,'' Froome said.
If Froome has a rival at the Vuelta, it is three-time winner Alberto Contador.
But the Spaniard has had a disappointing summer after crashes and a fever forced him out of the Tour and sidelined him from the Olympics.
''I will fight for the victory,'' Contador said. ''We will go day by day and I hope to have more good luck than I have had recently. I just hope for a better start than the one I had in the Tour.''
This will be the seven-time grand tour winner's last race with his Tinkoff team.
The biggest threat to Sky as a team should come from a Movistar squad led by Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, although the Spanish outfit was unable to muster much of a challenge during this summer's Tour.
Quintana has twice finished second to Froome at the Tour, and the Colombian climber won the 2014 Giro d'Italia. He arrives at the Vuelta after wins this year at the Tour of Catalonia and the Tour of Romandie.
The 36-year-old Valverde, who won the 2009 Vuelta, will be completing a demanding season after having finished third at the Giro, sixth at the Tour de France, and competing for Spain in the Olympic road race.